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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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66                                 LIFE   OF
that arm of the Orinocco wLicli flows into tho Rio
Negro, and thereby to verify its existence, which for
half a century had been sometimes believed and {some-
times doubted. The existing charts were 8O fmiHy,
that Humboldt's presence in those regions became of
the greatest scientific importance, in the accurate
determination of localities, and the correction of errors
in the charts.
What Htimboldt felt at the sight of this equatorial
region will be most faithfully given in ldn own wortlb*
" In these interior districts of America/' ho says,, "one
almost accustoms oneself to consider man aw Ťojno-
thing unimportant in the order of nature. The earth
is covered with plants, whose free growth in cheeked
by no obstacle. An immeasurable layer of black
earth testifies the uninterrupted action of organic
forces. Crocodiles and boas are the lords of the
streams; jaguars, pekaris, tapirs., and monkeyw, i'oa.r~
lessly cross the woods in which they are settled na on
an ancient inheritance. Such a scene of animated
nature, in which man is as nothing, has nomothiiig
strange and depressing in it. It is difficult to acetic
torn oneself to it on the ocean and in the sandy deBertR
of Africa, although there, where nothing exinte which
can remind us of our fields, woods, and rivers, the
immense desert we traverse seems less strange. I3ut
here, in a fertile, evergreen, beautiful country, wo nook
in vain for traces of human existence, and seem to bo
transported into a totally different world. And tlui8o
impressions are stronger the longer they end tire/'
Humboldt visited the Catholic missions which are
dispersed over the country hore, among- thoxu Mnroa
and the more southern .Fort St. Carlos, the auoRt
southern Spanish military boundary guard, scarcely
two degrees distant from the equator* Here Hum-
boldt stood on neutral ground, from which ho could
have as quickly proceeded down the Amazon to the
Brazilian coast, as he could attain the north coast of
Carabas on the river Cassiquiare, down the Orinocco*
He chose the latter as more suitable to his plans.